Innovation in Science Is on The Decline And We’re Not Sure Why

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Not exactly about books, but innovation and creativity are what makes the book world (and many other worlds) worth following.

From Science Alert:

The rate of ground-breaking scientific discoveries and technological innovation is slowing down despite an ever-growing amount of knowledge, according to an analysis released Wednesday of millions of research papers and patents.

While previous research has shown downturns in individual disciplines, the study is the first that “emphatically, convincingly documents this decline of disruptiveness across all major fields of science and technology,” lead author Michael Park told AFP.

Park, a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, called disruptive discoveries those that “break away from existing ideas” and “push the whole scientific field into new territory.”

The researchers gave a “disruptiveness score” to 45 million scientific papers dating from 1945 to 2010, and to 3.9 million US-based patents from 1976 to 2010.

From the start of those time ranges, research papers and patents have been increasingly likely to consolidate or build upon previous knowledge, according to results published in the journal Nature.

The ranking was based on how the papers were cited in other studies five years

after publication, assuming that the more disruptive the research was, the less its predecessors would be cited.

The biggest decrease in disruptive research came in physical sciences such as physics and chemistry.

“The nature of research is shifting” as incremental innovations become more common, senior study author Russell Funk said.

Burden of knowledge

One theory for the decline is that all the “low-hanging fruit” of science has already been plucked.

If that were the case, disruptiveness in various scientific fields would have fallen at different speeds, Park said.

But instead “the declines are pretty consistent in their speeds and timing across all major fields,” Park said, indicating that the low-hanging fruit theory is not likely to be the culprit.

Instead, the researchers pointed to what has been dubbed “the burden of research,” which suggests there is now so much that scientists must learn to master a particular field they have little time left to push boundaries.

Link to the rest at Science Alert

The question in the OP is one of the few about which PG doesn’t have an opinion.

That said, PG hasn’t noticed any lack of innovation in the various categories of knowledge to which he pays attention.

1 thought on “Innovation in Science Is on The Decline And We’re Not Sure Why”

  1. Not every innovation gets documented in a scientific paper or a patent.
    This is particularly true in corporate R&D and startups where IP brings competitive advantage$$$$.

    I would sooner suspect the methodology.

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